Mindfulness, Meditation and Trauma


Mindfulness has arrived. There is no longer any question that mindfulness is a useful and necessary tool that anyone can benefit from. One challenge, however, is that mindfulness and meditation can be triggering for people who have experienced trauma.

Most people cope with traumatic experiences by finding ways to divert themselves from feelings that, at the time they occurred, were too overwhelming to feel. When we sit and breath in mindfulness, we often begin to break down some of the coping skills that have kept those overwhelming feelings at bay. When this happens, it creates an opportunity for those feelings to come back to consciousness creating discomfort and the potential opportunity to be retraumatized by those same feelings that we’ve avoided for so long.

The key to successful meditation practice for individuals who have experienced trauma is:

1. An awareness that trauma exists in their system. 

Many people come to meditation in an effort to work with things like depression, anxiety and or chronic pain. What they don’t realize is that the reason for these symptoms may be a trauma history they are unaware of or have yet to process.

2. A safe place in the body and/or mind to fall back on.

Having a firm connection to what we call ‘resource’ — something unambiguously positive in our present moment experience allows us to ride the wave of unsettling emotion or sensation that may arise from trauma in our history.

3. Good communication with a person of trust.

While mindfulness is useful in part because it’s something anyone can do for themselves, for people who have experienced trauma, it can be necessary to have someone to talk about the experiences that come up during meditation. This provides a safety net through which we can experience safety even with feelings, sensations or thoughts that would otherwise overwhelm us.

4. A practice that is adaptable to our current needs

Not all meditation practices work for all people. And, as we progress with our own path of mindfulness, our needs are likely to shift. Having ways to engage in meditation that allow us to access our internal sense of safety, that let us work productively with the inner material that arises allows us to meet the challenges that a person who has experienced trauma may encounter on the path to mindfulness.

Just because mindfulness can be difficult for people who have experienced trauma does not mean that it can’t be a useful tool in our healing. Indeed, as we progress through the process of working with our trauma, the ability to see our emotions thoughts feelings and reactions to our history and the present world around us is essential to finding safety and healing in ourselves.

Practicing mindfulness at Mend offers the safety of an educated and adept instructor who can help you find the safety in yourself and the adaptability of a practice that can help you sit comfortably with whatever comes up when you open your mind and focus your awareness.